Deb Dana Doesn’t Count on Inspiration

Here’s the thing about inspiration: as a writer, you need it, but you can’t depend on it.

Let me explain. In my case, I drew inspiration for my book from food and cooking blogs and an article I read in a newspaper about underground supper clubs. That’s what sparked the idea for my novel and kept me awake night, mulling over how the story would unfold. Without that initial spark, I wouldn’t have approached the story with nearly as much passion and enthusiasm as I did.

But when it came time to write the book, I couldn’t depend on that initial spark to motivate me every single day. Some days, I just wasn’t feeling…well, very inspired. And you know what? That was fine. I wrote anyway.

Back when I was a broadcast journalist at the Nightly Business Report, I worked on a deadline. If I didn’t report or produce a story from the Washington bureau for that evening’s broadcast, we’d have a glaring two- or three-minute hole in the middle of the broadcast.

So what do you think my bureau chief would have said if I came in one morning, sighed, and said, “Sorry, I can’t deliver tonight’s story on time. I’m not feeling inspired.” That’s right: he probably would have fired me. Or, at the very least, reconsidered his decision to hire me in the first place.

When I shifted gears to become a novelist, I didn’t have anyone looking over my shoulder from day to day, making sure I was keeping up with my word count goals and wasn’t wasting time on Facebook and Twitter instead (ahem, not that I ever do that…cough, cough). But I realized pretty early that I needed to approach the craft with the same discipline as a reporter on deadline. That meant I couldn’t wait around for my muse to inspire me everyday before I sat down in front of the keyboard. Muse or no muse, I’d better get some words on the page. Otherwise, all I’d have to show for my initial inspiration was a Really Good Idea that existed only in my head.

I’m sure some writers will disagree and feel that same initial excitement every time they sit down in front of the computer. But for me, I need inspiration to get started, and from there, I count on discipline and hard work to keep me going until I reach the end.

What about you? Do you need to feel inspired to complete a project? Or can you push through the not-so-inspiring moments?


14 Replies to “Deb Dana Doesn’t Count on Inspiration”

  1. It more FUN to feel inspired. But like you, if I only wrote when I felt that way, I’d have precious few words on the page. Besides – sometimes the brightest and best inspiration shows up when I’m battering away at a totally uninspired wall of words.

    1. Exactly! When I go back and reread sections I’ve written, sometimes the parts I thought were total slogs and would be terrible actually end up being pretty inspired! Of course that isn’t *always* the case, and it’s definitely more fun to write when I feel fired up, but sometimes inspiration appears in unexpected places.

  2. I think I interpret “inspired” very lightly. Meaning, I do whatever I can do to keep moving forward, as there are many ways to add to your WIP. Right? My WIP is set in Philadelphia, where I lived until I was 26, where I grew up and went to college, but I haven’t lived there in many years. So sometimes I’m inspired to do research online, to reach out to people who still live there, to find out what someone who was in college in 1994 (when I was WAY out of college) might have been doing or thinking or listening to.

    I find it much harder to be inspired, let’s say, to do the laundry or empty the dishwasher, than to do anything writing-related!!!

    I love your attitude, Dana, and I know I’m going to love your book!

    1. Oh, trust me, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve had “clean office” on my “TO DO” list for the past two weeks, and yet somehow I’ve managed to do all sorts of writing-related things over that period without cleaning my office. Whoops ;-).

  3. True. I love to write when I’m inspired–it’s fun and exciting–but if I only sat down in front of my computer when I was already in the mood, I wouldn’t get a whole lot of it done. Sometimes you have to jump-start the creative engine by whatever means possible (caffeine comes to mind *grin*), and wait for it to warm up.

    1. Haha, yes, caffeine can definitely get the inspirational juices flowing! Thank goodness for coffee. I think Hemingway found a similar inspiration in wine ;-).

  4. Great post Dana! I’m in exactly the same boat you are – for me, inspiration is awesome but not a requisite for writing, especially in first draft. It comes down to putting the words on the page. I’ve sometimes let myself up from the chair after only an hour or two in editing when I’m “not feeling it” that day, but I still force an hour or two of work, and most of the time I can work through those “early blahs” and get myself focused enough to work. If I waited on inspiration …. well, let’s just say I’d need a longer deadline for sure.

  5. I’m with you. Inspiration is a luxury, but not necessary for the writing process, for me anyway. Ever since having kids (when my writing time got slashed down to a barely recognizable fragment of what it was before) I’ve had to cultivate the skill of getting right down to it whenever a little block of time presents itself. No swanning around waiting for the muse to show up. And no time for writer’s block, that’s for sure.

    1. Exactly. I don’t have time for writer’s block either. Even if what I write during those less “inspired” times is bad and I end up cutting it later, I force myself to get those words on the page!

  6. Inspiration would be wonderful thing to have but unfortunately not smething that comes along on a regular basis. And these days, what is better than inspiration is a commitment to my goal. It’s become harder and harder as I set out to promote my newly released novel, I need inspiration to find commitment so I can right the needed daily word count.

Comments are closed.